“Stuff the convention”, says Farron, “Lib Dems will block “cruel, heartless, mean-spirited and misjudged” tax credit cuts”

Tim Farron told Scottish Liberal Democrat conference yesterday that Liberal Democrats would try to kill of the Tory tax credit cuts with a “fatal motion.” It’s the only one of the many resolutions opposing the measure that would actually stop it.

What’s interesting is that it’s clear that you can give the man a script, but you can’t make him stick to it. He actually said much more than was in the official version below. He added in a bit that said, directly, “Stuff the convention”, referring to the Salisbury Convention under which the Lords don’t defeat Government plans that were in their manifesto. Well, this wasn’t, Tim said, and Cameron explicitly denied he had plans to do it, so it was perfectly legitimate to take this action. Here’s the official version:

It’s the same with Dave, you can make a good speech pitching for the centre ground, but if your next act is to attack the hardest working, poorest people in Britain by slashing tax credits while giving away tax cuts to millionaires; you are in no ones centre ground, you are punishing people who are doing their best to get by. So I say “judge David Cameron not by what he says but what he does”.

In Scotland, almost 250,000 hard working families will lose an average of £1,000 a year that’s more than 300,000 children who are being made to bear the brunt of the Chancellor’s blind ideological obsession.

This is a policy that every independent organisation – from the Institute for Fiscal Studies to the Government’s own social security advisory panel – has said is ill-thought through, inexplicably punitive and deeply divisive.

In the House of Commons, MPs described the policy – and I quote – as a message ‘to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society that we do not care’ and called on the chancellor for, I quote, “something – anything – that might mitigate its harshest effects.” – and that’s just the Tory MPs.

So be in no doubt: this cruel, heartless, mean-spirited and misjudged policy is George Osborne’s Poll tax and we will fight it as we fought the Poll Tax – it will not stand – not on my watch.

That is why this week Liberal Democrat Peers have taken the lead and put down a fatal motion in the Lords to kill it.

David Cameron has reacted with fury. How dare we use the unelected Lords to defeat the government’s will! If only he’d had the chance to reform the House of Lords in the last parliament…. So, Dave, I will take great pleasure in hoisting you by your own petard.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • the HoL can only delay this eventually it is going to be put through.

  • George Potter 25th Oct '15 - 9:56am

    If the statutory instrument is rejected then all the government can do is bring it through properly – as a piece of legislation or a financial bill. With the former they could ultimately use the parliament act to force it through and with the latter they could bypass the Lords altogether.

  • @simon as @george explains the government could use either to bypass the HoL. It is probably easiest to put in the next finance bill since that bypasses the HoL.

    The practical position is that with a majority the government can get this through.

  • LDs – we were crushed over Clegg’s resiling from opposing fees, why is Cameron getting away with lying before the election over tax credits. (The one doesn’t mitigate the other, but politically, surely, what was sauce for our goose should also be sauce for the tory gander?).

  • @simon the government have the time to incorporate these benefit changes in a finance bill. The reduction on these benefits is part of a long term strategy to reduce the welfare budget. Most of those who lose are not Tory voters and not going to be. The HoL is a resting place for former MPs, party benefactors and assorted cronies but in reality has no real power on big issues.

  • David Evans 25th Oct '15 - 6:18pm

    An excellent approach. It was good to see that we are actually getting quite a bit of publicity for this principled stand against what was quite simply a lie by the Conservatives in the run up to the election. We must hold this government to account and not allow Labour to back track to a mealy mouthed apology for opposition. We need big headlines simply to be noticed now and this is a good one to start with. I hope all our Lords are 100% behind this and that the press office is able to get over our point no matter what the outcome is.

    @jphnmc – The difference between David Cameron and the Lib Dems is that we had spent 50 years building a reputation for doing politics better by being honest with people, “an end to broken promises” etc. People expect Labour and the Tories to lie to them. We had persuaded our voters in 2010 we were better than that. Sadly Nick through tuition fees and appearing to be just like the Tories destroyed all that work in just five years. That is why people judge us much more harshly.

  • Tsar Nicholas 25th Oct '15 - 8:20pm

    How can the HoL block this measure? The Parliament Act of 1911 killed off the possibility of the Lords wrecking tax proposal. I seem to recall that it was the Liberals who did that.

  • I find it odd that the LibDems are using the HoL to try and block the tax credit cuts – how democratic is that? If the HoL had tried to prevent the will of the elected chamber when we had the coalition government I’m fairly certain there would have been outrage from the LibDems.

  • nigel hunter 26th Oct '15 - 12:34am

    Maybe after 100.,years parts of the Constitution should change A written constitution should be introduced so that no vagaries can cloud the issues of the day.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Oct '15 - 2:02am

    I’m softening my stance on the rebellion. Sometimes you have to accept that you are not going to win an argument and think why that is.

    The case that voting against measures in the Lords is a good way to force reform is a strong one. However, there are still concerns with some undemocratic arguments being made. If the “means justify the ends” because the policy is “morally wrong” then that kind of thinking is used to justify action from violent protests (frequently seen in France) to civil war, not seen in Western Europe for a long time. It was also the argument of the Soviet Union and is similar with China today.

    So my concerns were not simply vanity, but about protecting the integrity of representative democracy.

  • Malc
    Jan 11, 2012 – The House of Lords inflicted three defeats on the government over its welfare reform bill.
    And on other occasions.

  • nigel hunter 26th Oct '15 - 8:28am

    Tax Credit recipients don’t vote Tory (except one by mistake who swallowed the lie) This was not in the Conservative manifesto. As Nick Clegg said on housing they are playing base politics. Now that their own MPs have complained because of voter dis-satisafaction , not standing up for the working poor and possibly losing their seats? Some sort of compromise will be on the cards.

  • The Lib Dems’ outrage over this would be a lot more plausible if they hadn’t voted for this kind of thing while in government :-


  • The order of voting in the HoL on Monday is:
    1. A “fatal motion”, tabled by the Liberal Democrat peer Zahida Manzoor [possibly 100 to 200 in favour]
    2. A motion, to be tabled by the crossbench peer Molly Meacher, that would delay the cuts until the government spells out how it will help low-paid workers. [possibly over 300 in favour – if the peer sticks to her proposal]
    3. A motion, to be tabled by the former Labour minister Patricia Hollis, which would halt the cuts until the government produces a scheme to compensate low paid workers for three years. [almost certain to obtain a majority]
    4. A “motion of regret”, to be tabled by the bishop of Portsmouth, Christopher Foster. The government is hoping that this will woo cross-bench peers, [not likely to appeal to a majority in the House unless motion 3 fails]
    It is thought a majority of peers require the government to bring forward better proposals to help lower paid workers and that the Chancellor is preparing to do that.

  • nigel hunter 26th Oct '15 - 9:55am

    The welfare benefit system is a safety net for all even tory voters who can also fall from grace in life ie loose support from a broken marriage. Why cannot the govnt find money from elsewhere ie take away subsidies from Disney to make films here for instance. The govnt can always find money when needed for example £2billion to help the French and Chinese build a nuclear power station without cutting things that the people use for our wellbeing be it financial moral or social. Saving money isn’t everything people do borrow money and put themselves into debt that is what a mortgage is investing now for a better future is relevant to a family just as much as a country. Not everybody can afford to get into debt that is one reason why social rented housing is necessary.

  • @ Malc

    “I find it odd that the LibDems are using the HoL to try and block the tax credit cuts – how democratic is that? If the HoL had tried to prevent the will of the elected chamber when we had the coalition government I’m fairly certain there would have been outrage from the LibDems.”

    Quite. I don’t know if you are a Lib Dem, but if so, good on yer.

    What is missing from this discussion is the point of constitutional principle, which is absolutely fundamental. Either Lloyd George and Asquith were right in 1909 – 11 to fight the Tories on this matter or they were wrong. Which do you assent to?

    What they won then (and they were absolutely right) was the Parliament Act, which changed the powers of the House of Lords. A “convention” (already extant actually but reaffirmed) that the Lords should not interfere in matters of supply. But above all, another convention (unassailable in an unwritten constitution such as ours) that the House of Lords should not become a Party Political Opposition to the elected Government in Parliament.

    In trying to make the the House of Lords “Mr Farron’s poodle” you are fighting against everything you believed in and fought so valiantly for in one of the greatest administrations of your entire history.

    Lloyd George and Asquith must be turning in their graves.

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